History tucked away in vintage T-shirts

History tucked away in vintage T-shirts
History tucked away in vintage T-shirts

TROY – Pull open the drawer with your T-shirts and you can view the touchstones of your life, recalling everything from concerts to vacations to sporting events. “Everyone has T-shirts,” said Samantha Mahoski, curatorial assistant at the Rensselaer County Historical Society. “T-shirts tell us something. They tell us the events of your life,” Mahoski said. But in Mahoski’s case, they can also be windows into history. Mahoski was tasked with finding T-shirts in the museum collection that were created for festivals marking the Green Island Bridge collapse in March 1977. She turned up two, including one that was a turtleneck. Mahoski’s hunt blossomed into an exhibit, “Selected T-shirts from the Rensselaer County Historical Society Collection.” It’s a companion to the society’s “Bridging the Hudson” show. The shirts are being exhibited until early July. “It’s fun. You really don’t get to see T-shirts in a history museum. It’s a different history of Rensselaer County that you won’t get from documents,” Mahoski said about the 30 T-shirts in the historical society’s collection. The shirts can pull out memories not just from the mind but from the taste buds. Glance at an iconic Snowman T-shirt and you can practically taste the ice cream cones you’ve licked many times outside the iconic Snowman ice cream stand in Lansingburgh. Or shirts from the towns of Schaghticoke and Brunswick celebrating their bicentennials remind of a simpler time — and the fact that someone thought to print up T-shirts to mark their anniversaries. Whether those T-shirts are part of a a museum collection or packed in a box under a bed, they present history differently with a picture and perhaps a phrase. They reveal culture from society down to the individual’s own tastes and experiences. Last year, London’s Fashion and Textile Museum hosted a show called “T-shirt: Cult — Culture — Subversion,” which covered the T-shirt’s role as a platform for musical, political and social messages. “It’s a mini-exhibition of each person. If you take the T-shirts, they tell us things that you consider important and things that you remember,” said Ashley Hopkins-Benton, curator of social history at the New York State Museum in Albany. A museum’s T-shirt collection will vary based in part on its own curatorial objectives about the story it’s seeking to explain and what is donated, in addition to shirts it may purchase. The State Museum possesses about 160 T-shirts in its history collection, covering a half-century from the 1960s through 2017. “It’s interesting to dive into the collection. A large bulk of the T-shirts were created originally to fight for equality in various forms,” Hopkins-Benton said. “The other substantial part of the collection is related to Sept. 11.” There are T-shirts produced by the Creative Women’s Collective in New York City from about 1980 to 1990 with a focus on pro-women’s rights, the Equal Rights Amendment and LGBTQ rights. T-shirts also depict events such as the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic Games, Freihofer’s Run for Women, the 40th anniversary of Pearl Harbor […]

Full article on original web page… www.timesunion.com

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